Despite my previous blog about e-books and my entire point of view on them, this weekend I read my first e-book. And I *loved* the story. didn’t love the format so much.
Theoretically, I adore e-books (and absolutely stand by my assertion that publishers should make them wildly available). I like having my entire library encapsulated in this little tablet I can take anywhere with me (and that I don’t lose if my house burns down). I like having it all organized and stored and portable and nicely digital. I like the ease of holding a little tablet even if I’m reading a 500 page book (especially if I’m reading a 500 page book).
But tablets don’t feel the way books feel. When I open up my copy of Spindle’s End a scent wafts up from the pages that contains the story without any words – the wild, untamable power and the strength and the turmoil and the beauty of it.
My word memory is also very spatial – by that I mean, where words are on the page is all wrapped up with my memory of my favorite moments (the most haunting, amazing metaphor in Spindle’s End is about 3/4 of the way through the book, half way down the page on the left hand side).
Reading on a tablet was informative and I know the story now. But it isn’t sensual; there aren’t deeper connections formed between me and the words and the characters because it’s a very stark experience.
A handy experience when traveling because I usually need to take 3-5 books with me. A useful experience for gathering information about whether I like a story or not (by that first read). A practical experience when you need a library (or an oft referred to pdf) at your fingertips. But not the deep, lasting experience of a book. Stories and knowledge need tangible context to truly reside in us.
Jenny: Honestly, what is it about computers that bothers you so much?
Giles: The smell.
Jenny: Computers don’t smell, Rupert.
Giles: I know. Smell is the most powerful memory trigger there is. A certain flower or whiff of smoke can bring up experiences long forgotten. Books smell–musty and rich. The knowledge gained from computers has no texture, no context. It’s there and then it’s gone. If it’s to last, then the getting of knowledge should be tangible. It should be smelly.
ETA: I think e-books will be a niche market like audio books. Obviously bigger than audio books, but I don’t think the publishing industry needs to be so concerned or fight the tide so hard. People who love books aren’t going to stop loving books.